Claremont Craft Ales isn’t just home to a selection of beers with locally inspired names like Indian Hill, Café Padua and Station 101. It houses a couple of avid readers who like the written word as much as they do the brewed beverage.

The COURIER recently caught up with cousins Emilie Moultrie and Natalie Seffer who, along with their husbands Simon Brown and Brian Seffer, keep the local taproom—which celebrated its third anniversary this summer—running smoothly.

The conversation wasn’t held over a pint. After all, Ms. Seffer, now mother to one-month-old Benjamin, was pregnant with her first child at the time of the interview. It was one, however, in which everyone involved agreed that a good book is the best way to cure what “ales” you.

The love of reading began early for Ms. Moultrie, who still remembers the first book she read, Are You My Mother? If you’re unfamiliar with the children’s classic, written and illustrated by P.D. Eastman and typically sold as part of the Dr. Seuss series, it’s about a baby bird that hatches while his mom is out looking for food. The little guy roams around, looking for his mother in all the wrong places.

“I come back to that book for every baby,” she said. “I get it for everyone who is pregnant.”

Ms. Moultrie graduated from picture books to mysteries, starting with the Nancy Drew series, which also pulled in Ms. Seffer. When they were girls, both tore through the books in which a Titian-haired sleuth—with a natty sports car and a penchant for trouble—solved mysteries like The Haunted Showboat and The Witch Tree Symbol. “I’ve been tempted to reread them,” Ms. Moultrie said.

Her taste turned a shade darker as she became a teenager. She developed an addiction to Stephen King books and recalls holing up in the office at her mom’s music and dance studio, the Moultrie Academy, and reading Misery. In the nail-biting story, a deranged fan kidnaps her favorite author and forces him to write a novel to her liking.

“I remember like yesterday sitting in the office, with the doors closed and kids running around outside. I was just riveted,” Ms. Moultrie said.

Ms. Moultrie is still fascinated by darker fare and, when she’s looking for physical books, gravitates towards mysteries, thrillers and sci-fi. When it comes to audio books, she enjoys nonfiction, from history to neuroscience. “That kind of subject matter gets daunting when you have to put your eyes on it,” she said. 

She cites among memorable audio books those by Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The latter is about the strengths and pitfalls of unconscious perceptions, brainstorms, decisions and adaptations.

She also likes neurologist Oliver Sacks, who died last month after authoring more than a dozen books. These include Hallucinations (2012), about the imaginative trickery of the mind, and The Mind’s Eye (2010), an exploration of life with visual deficits. Among the case studies in Mind’s Eye, Mr. Sacks writes about his own experiences with cancer of the eye and his lifelong inability to recognize faces.

“I’m an old-school print girl,” Ms. Seffer said, noting that she gets books from Target or from friends who are finished with a particular title they think she might like. She loves reading by the pool or in bed, because it relaxes her.

Like her cousin, she’s a fan of dark-tinged mysteries and thrillers. When Ms. Seffer finds an author she admires, she dives in headfirst, reading all of their books before moving onto someone new. One such writer is Gillian Flynn, author of thrillers like Sharp Objects and the hugely popular Gone Girl.

During her recent pregnancy, Ms. Seffer found it difficult to stomach some of the books she usually enjoys. She didn’t want anything too blood-spattered, and no stories where anything bad befalls a child. She prepared for motherhood instead by reading a stack of parenting books, including the requisite What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

She learned calming, anti-colic tips from The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by noted pediatrician Harvey Karp. She also enjoyed Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

A New York Times Bestseller, Bringing up Bébé shares American journalist Pamela Druckerman’s observations on the things French parents do right, like getting babies on a sleep schedule, raising non-fussy eaters and allowing kids to explore and play, rather than jockeying to entertain them or over-schedule their time.

Ms. Moultrie may be an avid seeker of new books, but she has one that she returns to again and again: Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Mr. Bradbury is perhaps best known for his collections of short stories, but  Something Wicked is a full-length novel. It focuses on 13-year-old friends Jim Nightshade and William Halloway who, when a traveling carnival comes to town, encounter unimaginable horror.  The carnival’s leader, “Mr. Dark,” has the seeming power to grant the townspeople their secret desires. The dreams come with strings attached, however, amounting to the selling of your soul. 

The writing is masterful, as to be expected from the acknowledged master of science fiction. Around October 20, Mr. Bradbury writes, everything is “smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight,” and “it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bed sheets around corners.”

“There are lines in there that are so beautiful. There’s such a sadness to it,” Ms. Moultrie said.

—Sarah Torribio




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